Grief by Prescription
The Psalms poignantly and accurately reveal the deep emotions felt by God’s people. One of those emotions is grief.
Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies (Psalm 6:7).
Have mercy upon me, 0 LORD, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly (Psalm 31:9).
For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed (Psalm 31:10).
We are admonished to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15) and to encourage one another to draw near to the God of all comfort.
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
We have been in correspondence with a woman who has known tragedy and grief and who has thereby drawn closer to the Lord and His grace. In one of her letters she wrote this: "There is a question ... I have been asking for many, many years now ... It seems at every turn after a tragedy there is some one standing ready to ask, ‘What stage are you at now?’ referring to the so-called grief process.
"I myself find the grief-process proponents to deny the ‘everlasting consolation and good hope through grace’ and the ‘patience and comfort of the Scriptures’ available to us through Jesus Christ. It is His all-sufficient and satisfying comfort that is able to establish me in every good word and work."
Our writer continues, "‘This is my consolation and comfort in my affliction: Thy Word, it has given me life and revived me.’ Is it not even the doctrine of our Lord’s return that comforts and saves us from superfluous ‘anger, denial, bargaining, and depression’ following trial and tragedy? We are first to admit the pain, overwhelming pain at times coupled with disobedience and doubts; we are first to admit the ‘night watches’ of controversy between the soul and the flesh, convincing the soul to ‘Hope thou in God.’ But, the insisted stages ... and in order ... no. Could you comment on this ‘concoction’ from psychology that, I feel, ‘contorts’ the mind, will, and emotions unnecessarily, and especially when one is already vulnerable following tragedy?"
About the question of the so-called grief process: Nurses have always noticed that people experience various emotions during the process of death and grief. Then Elizabeth Kubler Ross (a New Ager) and others codified grief into a system of emotions in steps. Never mind the fact that not all people experience the same thing or in the same order.
Therapists and others often think that if a person does not grieve in a prescribed way, he has not completed the process and will be emotionally damaged because of it. Thus, they work at making people express anger and cry during "grief work" therapy.
The following is a horrible example of what happens in such therapy. A young couple preparing for the mission field had a baby with a serious physical problem. The baby was being treated and into his second year when he caught a cold. The parents took the baby to the doctor and the doctor said he seemed okay. The father was scheduled to fly overseas for two weeks. When he arrived, he called home. His wife said their son was dying and that if he wanted to see him alive, he should return home right away, which he did.
By the time the father got there, the baby had died. With hearts broken, they sought the Lord and found Him to be the God of all comfort. But that was not enough according to their mission board.
In a sincere desire to "help" this couple, their mission board added to their sorrow by sending them to the denomination’s "finest" therapy center to help them through their grief. Instead of being encouraged in the Lord, they received psychological counseling. The couple had to relive the experience of their real loss in an artificial setting in which they were made to go through each of the prescribed steps of grief in a manner acceptable to the therapist. When the father did not cry at the right moments in therapy, the counselor told him to think about and imagine how it was going to feel not ever being able to hold his baby again. These parents were forced to feel the pain of their loss again (in contrived circumstances) and to express their agony (in the presence of a therapist). In other words, therapy made it worse for the couple. Handling tragedy through the Lord’s grace was not sufficient for the professional therapists, who had to make it happen according to the steps of a grief formula.
We believe that many who try to force a so-called grief process on others are playing god and bringing more grief than they are resolving. Not only are people harmed; the Lord is being dishonored. God’s children are being led to believe that His Word is not enough—that He is not really the God of all comfort. God’s grace is cheapened and His children are cheated.
PAL V11N3 (May-June 2003)